A Case of Anti-Semitism? Department of Labor Resignation Shows Trump Admin Is Walking on Eggshells

It took only four hours for a senior adviser in President Donald Trump's Department of Labor to resign after Bloomberg enquired about a series of Facebook posts that the publication later described as "anti-Semitic." While it appears that Leif Olson, a conservative former Houston-based lawyer, was mocking alt-right anti-Semites instead of joining them, the quick resignation may be the result of an administration that felt the impact of President Trump's recent dual-loyalty statements about Jewish Americans more deeply than they first let on.

Just two weeks into his job as a senior policy adviser in the Wage and Hour Division, Olson was queried about posts from 2016 that seemingly began as a debate about whether then-House Speaker Paul Ryan was a neo-conservative. "No he's not. Neo-cons are all Upper East Side Zionists who don't golf on Saturday if you know what I mean," wrote Olson. The commenter he was speaking with then wrote back, "That's what I meant. He's a Jew. Everyone knows that." Olson responded late at night that, "It must be true because I've never seen the Lamestream Media report it, and you know they protect their own." Paul Ryan identifies as a Catholic.

The full posts, however, appear to show that Olson was in fact mocking alt-right parties and Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist who had run against Ryan, in particular. "Establishment insider RINO corporate tool Paul Ryan was finally brought to heel in tonight's primary by an uprising of the conservatives masses... The guy just suffered a massive, historic, emasculating 70-point victory. Let's see him and his Georgetown cocktail-party puppetmasters try to walk that one off," the post written by Olson actually began, making it clear that sarcasm was intended.

Still, the controversy and resignation came as the White House is still feeling the wake of President Trump's comments last month about Jewish loyalty. Late last month Trump said that Jewish people who voted for Democrats (that's the vast majority of Jewish people in the U.S., by the way) were being disloyal, bringing up the common anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty.

"If you want to vote Democrat you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and Israel," the president said on August 20. He then called the nearly 80 percent of Jewish Americans who voted for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections "stupid." The next day, the president retweeted a comment made by conspiracy theorist and conservative radio host, Wayne Allyn Root, that claimed "the Jewish people in Israel love him like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God."

The comments caused major uproar amongst elected officials and anti-hate groups. "Let's be clear: What the president said was anti-Semitic," wrote Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement. "The charge of disloyalty or dual loyalty has been used against Jews for centuries. Almost a year after the Pittsburgh shooting, as anti-Semitism continues to rise, it's bewildering that we still need to have this conversation."

Trump Israel
This picture taken on July 28, 2019 shows two giant Israeli Likud Party election banners hanging from a building showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A senior adviser in Trump's Labor Department recently resigned after Facebook posts he made in 2016 were described as anti-Semitic. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty

The Facebook posts also bring up questions about the Trump administration's screening process for high-ranking agency positions.

"The vetting process for the White House is very good, but you're part of the vetting process, you know?" Trump said last month. "I give out a name to the press, and they vet for me. We save a lot of money that way."

As a Houston-based lawyer, Olson reportedly worked to limit the rights of same-sex couples looking to marry as well as the pathways to citizenship for certain immigrants. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for a Texas district court judgeship.

Olson was brought into his role at the Department of Labor to advise and aide a pet project of President Trump's to limit overtime pay for employees and deregulate liability rules for corporations. Trump has reportedly been upset with the delay in these actions, which is said to be part of the reason he pushed former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to leave his role.

Representatives from Bloomberg say they stand behind their reporting.